Throughout history, a wide variety of materials have been used in making incense. Historically there has been a preference for using locally available ingredients. For example, sage and cedar were used by the indigenous peoples of North America. This was a preference and ancient trading in incense materials from one area to another comprised a major part of commerce along the Silk Road and other trade routes, one notably called the Incense Route.
The same could be said for the techniques used to make incense. Local knowledge and tools were extremely influential on the style, but methods were also influenced by migrations, among them clergy and physicians
who were both familiar with incense arts.
Many natural fragrance materials are used in incense sticks. They are commonly used in religious ceremonies, and many of them are considered quite valuable. Essential oils or other extracted fractions of these materials are also isolated and used to make incense. Some of the natural materials used in pure Incense Sticks are : Agarwood, Cedar, Sandalwood, Cypress, Juniper, Cassia, Harmala, Juniper, Nutmeg, Vanilla, Bdellium, Frankincense, Myrrh, Camphor, Guggul, Tolu Balsam, Patchouli, Sage, Bay, Balsam, Vetiver, Orris, Clove, Lavender, Saffron, Rose, Ambergris, Musk, etc.
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According to Indian Mythology, it is a way of life to evoke the blessings of the Almighty for the victory of good over evil. All evil thoughts and portents are to be driven out and the atmosphere cleared of all evil smells. Thus the practice of burning incense, barks and herbs formed a part of ancient rituals.
Indian sages have found a well-defined method to which they referred as HAVANA SAMAGRI - mixture of odoriferous substances that are now made available as Dhoop mixture. For convenience of use, these mixtures were rolled over a bamboo split, which later came to be known as AGARBATHI (Incense Stick).
Ancient Indian scriptures have listed 16 different modes of spiritual and devotional offerings made on special occasions, which are described in the Agama Shastra. Incense is one of them. Over the centuries, Agarbathis have become a significant means of offerings, which has taken many forms over the generations as Incense sticks, Joss sticks, Dhoop Sticks, etc.
Incense sticks are hand rolled with a skill, discipline and devotion that ingrains in itself the traditional knowledge passed on through generations. Agarbathies are the most convenient form of spreading perfume and fragrance. They are quite a safe method to employ.
Incense history
Burning incense is a tradition that dates back thousands of years, in practically all of earth’s ancient civilizations, and is well known for it’s mood-altering qualities. The word Incense is derived from the Latin verb incendere, ‘to burn’.
It has been used to accompany prayer, to worship God, purify the air, release negative vibrations, induce self-awareness and to uplift the emotional state.
Incense has been used for religious rituals since time immemorial. The composition of incense is an ancient art, utilized not only for removing unpleasant smells with a nice aroma but also to expel evil spirits and to introduce natural herbal ingredients into the human system for medicinal purposes.
Incense has always played a significant role in religious ceremonies world wide from ancient times. An Egyptian tablet dated from 1530 BC, mentions its usage. It is also described in the Vedic literatures of India, dating back to 5,000 BC. Perhaps the best known natural fragrances used as incense are frankincense and myrrh, found almost exclusively in Somalia.
Natural scents are an integral ingredient for all ceremonies in Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Chinese rituals, as well as Japanese Shinto rituals. One finds it's usage in ancient Greece as early as the 8th century BC, as well.
It was also used in the Christian church to honor God and the saints and the usage of natural scents has been a regular part of rituals in Catholicism. It is well known that frankincense and myrrh were offered to Jesus Christ. In North America, cedar, sage, and other aromatic herbal substances are important components of traditional indigenous Native American ritual.